Communication can be challenging at the best of times, but it’s especially rough when speaking with a robot. Frequently, Alexa will spout off, “Sorry, I don’t know that one,” or Siri will say, “I’m not sure I understand.” Tap or click here to get Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant to understand you better.
Despite the occasional frustration, having a smart assistant around can do you good. When it’s listening correctly, it can turn on lights, open apps and even play music. You also get a hands-free way to call other people, which is great when you’re gobbling up Cheetos and don’t want orange dust smearing across your screen.
If you want a healthy relationship with your smart assistant, improve your communication style. For example, some words and phrases work much better than others. That’s why we’re sharing some of the most effective phrases that you may not even know about.
1. Turn on the flashlight
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stubbed my toes while stumbling through my home. You may ask, “Why not turn on the light switches in your hallway?” Well, when it’s 4 a.m. and you wake up disoriented from detailed dreams of dancing pigs, it’s easy to fumble around for the switch, fail and decide you can find the bathroom on your own.
One bruised big toe later and you quickly realize you needed light after all. Luckily, your smart assistant can help, no matter how discombobulated your dreams left you. Just pick up your phone and say, “Turn on the flashlight.”
This is an easy way to let there be light — without fumbling through your settings or switching on the lights. This works for both Siri and Google Assistant. Just say the wake word first to make sure they’re listening.
Fun fact: If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you can say “Lumos.” It references the spell Harry and his friends use to light up their wands. Speaking of which, tap or click here to read J.K. Rowling’s lost story for free online.
2. Add to my calendar
Now, this is a lifesaver. It’s easy to make spur-of-the-moment plans when you’re talking to people. Then, when the time for the appointment finally strikes, you forget about it altogether.
That’s because you didn’t take the time to add it to your calendar. We get it — this is an easy mistake to make, especially if you have multiple calendars and accidentally jot down the event on the wrong one. An easy fix is to tell your smart assistant to add the event to your calendar.
Just tell Siri or Google Assistant what your plan is and a date and time. For example, you could say, “Hey Siri, set up a lunch meeting with Bob tomorrow at 1 p.m.” You could also be more specific, like, “Hey Google, add an event called Birthday Dinner on Sunday at 4 p.m.”
If you have multiple calendars, specify which one or else it will fall into your default calendar. From there on, you’ll see the event. Just confirm it and you’re good to go. You can change and cancel the event later on, of course.
Siri automatically connects to Apple’s Calendar app. If you use the Google Calendar, though, you’ll have to add it to Apple’s default app. Here’s how to get the two apps to play nicely together.
3. Set a timer
It’s easy to lose track of time. When you’re multi-tasking, distractions constantly pop up.
One minute, you’re just about to set a timer to let the chicken cook. Then, you hear a loud thud from the other room and one of the kids starts screaming for you. With a single sentence to your smart assistant, you can put a pin in your current task before running off to put out a fire elsewhere.
If you want to set a timer, tell Siri or Google Assistant, “Set a timer for 10 minutes” or however long you need. For instance, if you say, “Set a timer for 20 minutes called chicken,” this starts a new timer with the label “chicken.”
You can add multiple timers on top of that, too. We recommend using labels to help keep track of everything.
However, this feature doesn’t just apply to smart assistants on your phone. Your Amazon Alexa-enabled devices can also help out. Tap or click here to make Alexa set up reminders, timers and alarms.
4. Silence my phone
Sometimes your phone is the source of frustration. Imagine you’re in the middle of a church ceremony and the pastor is sharing an emotional story. It’s so impactful there’s not a single dry eye in the pulpit.
The pastor stops for a moment to draw a breath. Then, in the silence, your phone erupts as someone calls you. Your ringtone blasts through the aisles, and everyone turns to stare at you.
Situations like this can be flat-out humiliating. Before you go into church, start a meeting, or sit down for a job interview, make sure to silence your phone.
This doesn’t even require a search through your settings. Hold up your phone and say, “Siri, silence my phone” or “Google Assistant, silence my phone.” Just like that, you’ve saved yourself a ton of embarrassment down the line.
Oh, and it’s also super helpful for cutting down on distracting notifications. Tap or click here for a quick and easy way to stop phone notifications.
5. That wasn’t for you
This one’s my favorite. If you didn’t know, your smart assistant often gets triggered accidentally. The AI may think you said the hot word when in reality, you didn’t mean to. If you say something that sounds similar to “Siri” or “Hey Google,” it may perk its ears, so to speak.
This can be an issue if your assistant is set up to record everything you say to it.
For example, Kim recently went through her Amazon Alexa recordings. She found a few voice clips that didn’t involve Alexa at all — including some private discussions about buying real estate. Tap or click here to find out everything Amazon knows about you.
Luckily, Siri and Google Assistant both make distinctive noises when activated. If you want to stop Google Assistant from recording the rest of your conversation, say, “That wasn’t for you.” This also deletes whatever it just recorded from your history.
You can also tell Siri, “That wasn’t for you,” when it turns on accidentally. However, Apple hasn’t officially said whether this phrase wipes your previous recording from its memory. Tap or click here to stop all your smart devices from listening to you and recording what you say.